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The Series Has Left Reality

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Some works take place in a world that is just like the real world, and some take place in a world that clearly isn't. This trope is about works that start out in the real world but then very definitely leave it. Sometimes, it's because fantastical or science-fiction elements are introduced into a work that up until then had been "real world". Sometimes, the setting is revealed to have an Alternate History that distances it from reality.

These new elements might bring about a Genre Shift if they change the focus of the work enough. Conversely, a Bizarro Episode, Paranormal Episode, Cryptid Episode or Alien Episode might take a brief vacation from reality, but doesn't affect the series' continuity.

Compare and contrast the Masquerade, which hides the fantastical elements of the setting from Muggles (but not necessarily the viewer), and The Unmasqued World, when the Masquerade breaks down. See also Mundane Fantastic when the viewer is surprised by the reveal but characters see it as normal; Denser and Wackier, where the work gets crazier as it goes on; Later-Installment Weirdness, where later story elements, format, and/or tone deviate from those of the earlier parts of a series; and Earth Drift, where the series starts off in the real world but then elements are introduced that makes it taking place in the real world not possible.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Aoi House: Despite no prior supernatural elements other than hints of sentience in the pets and Alex's bewitching hair, the gang spend the last few chapters before the epilogue trapped in Silent Hill, tying the book to The Unmasqued World of its later sister series. A later bonus story has Steph take them back there, after analyzing Alex's hair and Sandy's apparently psychic [bad] luck.
  • Beastars starts out as a high school drama about a socially anxious teenage wolf prone to fits of violent hunger who falls in love with a rabbit. The final arc has, among other things, Supernatural Martial Arts, a government conspiracy surrounding a whale that ended this world's equivalent of World War I, ghosts, and the protagonist tanking multiple point-blank grenade explosions at the same time without even flinching.
  • Cardfight!! Vanguard started off as a completely realistic series about Sendou Aichi learning how to play the titular card game, which is presented as being reasonably popular for a card game, and slowly gaining friends and confidence along the way. It slowly starts becoming increasingly unrealistic once nationally televised tournaments and hologram technology get involved - mind you, that's about one third in the first season without any previous hints about how weird things were going to get - and completely gets off the "realism" rails once it's revealed that the game's lore was real about halfway through. The Link Joker arc does attempt initially to reign things in a bit by making it clear that despite its popularity not everyone has heard of the game — Aichi attends an elite college prep school where everyone is too concerned with their studies for hobbies — but that quickly gets off the rails too between the Absurdly Powerful Student Council and the alien invasion.
  • Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Phantom Blood: The manga starts as a somewhat hammy but otherwise realistic Victorian period drama, featuring the rivalry of adopter brothers Jonathan and Dio. And one Genre Shift later, there's an ancient war between vampires created by Aztec masks and sunlight-powered kung-fu artists.
  • Kanon: While the story seems realistic at first, it slowly develops into magic realism, with a sharp swerve into it with the introduction of Mai's demons.
  • Samurai Flamenco starts as a series about a street vigilante who is a model by day and fights crime (mainly public smoking and littering) at night, inspired by his love for Toku heroes. After the infamous Episode 7, where a drug addict turns into a gorilla-like monster, and King Torture reveals the existence of his evil organization, the fantastic elements quickly take over the setting.

    Comic Books 
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara's comic Borgia starts as a historical work, albeit one that takes the more sensationalist aspects of the Borgias' lives as fact (notably Lucrezia's incestuous relationships) and, given the artist, large amounts of Explicit Content. At the end, Cesare Borgia is leading a mercenary army equipped with Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, including an air force made of his flying machines.

    Comic Strips 
  • Candorville was originally a combination of Anvilicious political gags and Slice of Life stories, many of which revolved the main character and his annoying baby-mama, Roxanne. Then it turns out that Roxanne is an evil vampire who might be destined to rule the Earth. Since then the comic keeps switching back and forth between urban humor and Urban Fantasy.
  • Garfield was originally about a man and his completely normal cat with the age old "What does your cat really think?" humor. Garfield started developing human-like qualities such as liking lasagna, being able to read character's thought bubbles, and eventually walking on his hind legs.
  • Peanuts was realistic until Charlie Brown taught Snoopy to walk upright in 1958.
  • As documented by Platypus Comix in this article, Safe Havens started out as a relatively grounded strip about the antics of a group of preschoolers at the eponymous daycare center, where the kids acted Wise Beyond Their Years and Roger was forever hiding inside a box but things stayed fairly within the realm of reality, even as the comic strip eventually broke Comic-Book Time and allowed the children to age. The tipping point came in 1998 when Samantha met a mermaid on the beach, and from that point out the comic changed from a relatively realistic slice-of-life comic to a fantasy comic involving characters being able to shapeshift into merpeople and animals, animals and humans being able talk to each other, Samantha communicating with her late grandmother through a mirror and her time-travelling grandchild from the future...all of which started with a bunch of preschoolers in a daycare saying and doing precocious things.

    Films — Animation 
  • Alpha and Omega: The first film in the series is the only movie in the franchise that started off even remotely grounded in reality before going off in wackier, more fantastical directions in later installments. Compare the Romeo & Juliet-esque plot of the first movie where the most outlandish thing was the wolves being able to dance, to that of the fifth movie which involves dinosaurs waking up in the wolves' forest in the present day.
  • The Jungle Book: In the first book. it seems like Mowgli just understands the animal languages, but in The Jungle Book 2 it's revealed that animals can communicate with all humans.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Fast and the Furious started out as a relatively grounded crime drama where the only intense action the film had was the street racing scenes and a shootout towards the end. As soon as the second movie, we have the cops using EMP harpoons and Brian jumping a Camaro onto a drug kingpin's yacht, sowing the seeds for the over-the-top action the franchise is currently known for. By Fast X, the tendency is lampshaded, with Aimes pointing out how Dom and his crew went from boosting trucks in LA to boosting nuclear submarines, breaking "every law of God and gravity" in the process.
  • Friday the 13th: The first film was about a grieving mother taking revenge on the summer camp counselors whose negligence she blamed for her son's death, then returning to the camp to kill again decades later when it is slated to reopen. Barring the Or Was It a Dream? ending, its story was firmly grounded in reality. The second film reveals that the son in question, Jason Voorhees, was actually still alive and had been living as a hermit in the woods the whole time, and he takes up his mother's machete and stalks the camp for three movies. A little over-the-top, but not outside the realm of possibility. But then he keeps getting harder to kill to the point where an axe to the skull only temporarily slows him down. After he was Killed Off for Real at the end of the fourth film, the fifth tried to go back to realism by having a Jack the Ripoff of Jason as the villain, but that proved so unpopular that the sixth film brought Jason Back from the Dead as a Revenant Zombie, the first of many supernatural or sci-fi gimmicks that later film would employ.
  • Halloween: The first film was about the escaped, murderous mental patient Michael Myers returning to his hometown to kill again, and while the second film added the twist that he and the Final Girl were long-lost siblings, it remained grounded in reality. (The third film was a supernatural horror story, but that was an expressly non-canon side story made in an attempt to turn Halloween into a Genre Anthology series.) Then came the "Thorn Trilogy" continuity of the fourth, fifth, and sixth films, where Michael was tied to an ancient Celtic curse that compelled him to kill with help from an evil druidic cult. Fans rolled their eyes, as did the first film's director John Carpenter, and all later continuities would expunge any supernatural elements from the series, or at most go the Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane route.

  • The Dexter book series leaves reality in Dexter in the Dark when Dexter's "Dark Passenger", as he refers to his homicidal urges, is revealed to be a demonic spirit inhabiting his body.
  • The Giver starts out in a futuristic dystopian society in which all aspects of life are controlled. However, once the concept of the transmission of memory is introduced, it becomes clear that this world involves supernatural elements. This is further evidenced in the later novels that include a malevolent forest and a demon trader.
  • Matilda starts in reality, until the title character is provoked into such terrible anger that she gains telekinetic powers. Matilda and Miss Honey try to analyse these scientifically. Later, Matilda loses her powers, and again, she and Miss Honey talk about why this happened.
  • The Tantei Team KZ Jiken Note series is purely realistic for most of the time — it's an edutainment series for tweens, after all. However, Nanaki, introduced in the twentieth novel, claims he has the ability to see spirits; and since then there have been paranormal subplots for subsequent novels — but the main plot maintains realistic.
  • Stephen King's Bill Hodges trilogy starts as a crime series before veering off from reality in the third entry End of Watch, which provides a pseudo-scientific explanation for the killer's supernatural powers. The spinoff The Outsider (2018) departs completely and has a shape-shifting monster as its antagonist.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alias starts off as a relatively cut-and-dry Tuxedo and Martini-style spy drama with some of your usual unrealistic Shoe Phones and Plot Technology, but otherwise realistic. Gradually, over the course of five seasons, the show introduces more and more science fiction elements until eventually you've got prophecies, immortality, city-sized balls of Synthetic Hate Plague (or something), special bees that are incredibly venomous and totally docile, and more.
  • Family Matters takes place firmly in the real world in its early seasons. But when Steve Urkel's inventions proved a popular plot point, they started getting increasingly fantastical, going from a functioning jetpack to a robot with artificial intelligence, to a machine that turns him into a suave ladies' man, to fusing his DNA with Elvis and finally up to shrink rays and time travel.
  • Gilligan's Island: The first season has no supernatural elements (save for "Three to Get Ready" which had a gem which could supposedly grant wishes and of course the occasional dream sequence). Then a few elements get into Season 2: seeds which can grant psychic abilities, a robot, Dr. Balinkoff's mind swapping experiment, and a meteor which accelerates aging. Season 3 features radioactive vegetables, a voodoo witch doctor, Balinkoff's mind control rings, Gilligan getting magnetized, and a jet pack.
  • Oz: The first few seasons are quirky, but gritty and brutally realistic. Later seasons began introducing increasingly bizarre elements, such as a storyline about "aging drugs" straight out of a sci-fi story and a character seemingly developing magical powers before mysteriously disappearing (though this was later retconned to him being killed and entombed in the walls of the prison) to a character who claimed to be possessed by the Devil, and might actually have been considering he could speak in The Voice Of The Legion.
  • Person of Interest starts with an idea that could exist today, a computer program that analyzes mass surveillance to predict crime, and slowly evolves to a story of all-out war between two rival A.I.s.
  • Pretty Little Liars is set in the real world, even if some of A's tricks defy belief. Spinoff Ravenswood has overt supernatural elements, and one of its major characters is a psychic with ties to the parent show; most notably, her visions helped her save Alison's life the night she disappeared.
  • Riverdale began as a Darker and Edgier Teen Drama adaptation of the Archie Comics characters, and while its plotlines started with a murder mystery and a Teacher/Student Romance and later included organized crime, serial killers, and drug rings, these were still within the bounds of possibility on a show that was supposed to be grounded in reality. Later seasons started incorporating more explicitly supernatural and sci-fi elements, including superpowers, an Alternate Universe, Time Travel, and a crossover with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, which was always a more overtly fantastical show.
  • Roseanne: Originally a comedy about a struggling blue-collar family, the last season takes a major (and infamous) turn for the bizarre. The Conners win millions of dollars in the lottery, revamp the house into a mansion, and begin overturning high society with their lowbrow ways. Roseanne and Jackie attend a party that spoofs Rosemary's Baby, Jackie is romanced by a European prince, Roseanne thwarts terrorists on a train, and the rest of the family are mostly Demoted to Extra until Darlene gives birth (which ends with the miraculous healing of her premature newborn). In the finale, it all turns out to be the plot of a book Roseanne writes after Dan's death from a heart attack... and then the revival series retcons said book and death immediately.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody leaves reality when a room at a hotel appears to be actually haunted (after the cast tricks Zack into believing it was haunted, the real ghost makes herself known), and keeps going from there; they travel to a parallel dimension in an episode that does not have an All Just a Dream ending. Its sequel series, The Suite Life on Deck, introduces a "Groundhog Day" Loop, a mummy's curse, and other increasingly strange plots that become part of the characters' daily lives. That's not getting into the crossovers with That's So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place.
  • SeaQuest DSV might have been science fiction, but it began as an attempt to show a future that could actually happen; technology and science was based on actual research and the first half of the first season stayed firmly grounded in reality. Then aliens show up. Then giant fire-breathing worms. Then the aliens transport the characters to their planet. Then they send them back, a decade later, having not aged. That's to say nothing of genetically engineered people being commonplace, starting with Season 2.

  • Eminem's Slim Shady songs were always full of fantastical kayfabe elements, but was a Life Embellished version of his real life - full of bad behaviour, drugs and mistreatment of people. But after his Creator Recovery in 2008, his life and personality improved dramatically and he became regretful of the Muse Abuse that he had wreaked on the women in his family in the name of art. Later songs tend to pit Slim Shady against fictional characters, often fictional girlfriends he's stuck in a Destructive Romance with who are Allegorical Characters for drugs/his fans/the rap game, who range from adoring punchbags to completely insane women who make Shady look normal.
  • "Alive" by Pearl Jam is part of a musical trilogy that continues with "Once" and concludes with "Footsteps" note . "Alive" begins with the narrator's mother telling him that the man he believed to be his father is in fact not, and that his real father has been dead for some time, which actually happened to Eddie Vedder. The song departs from real life after that when he grows up to be the spitting image of his father and is molested by his mother. "Once" sees the now mentally disturbed narrator become a spree shooter, and in "Footsteps", he contemplates his life choices while awaiting execution.

    Video Games 
  • Saints Row started out as a gang war simulator, got weirder as the series went on, then jumped the rails entirely when the fourth game began with aliens conquering Earth. The fifth game went outright supernatural as Satan himself claimed the protagonist... as his child-in-law.
  • For almost two full games, the Shenmue series hews even closer to real-life than most video games do, aside from Ryo's occasional dreams about a mysterious young woman he's never met before. In the last few minutes of the second game, after he's finally met that same girl, the plot suddenly begins to take a turn for the fantastic, with the Phoenix and Dragon Mirrors apparently having mystical properties, and the girl revealing that Ryo and his quest are apparently part of an ancient prophecy handed down in her village. Word of God is that the long-awaited third installment still emphasizes realism, but that explicitly supernatural elements will be part of the story going forward.

    Web Comics 
  • The original plan for Bob and George was to present a realistic setting at first, and several months into its run, it would slowly reveal itself as a superhero comic all along. Unfortunately, when the intended Mega Man Sprite Comic filler was wrapped up and the intended real comic began, the author couldn't hold back, and the superhero elements were revealed after only one week of strips.
  • Sandra and Woo was relatively restrained when it first started with its primary bit of unreality being Woo able to speak human languages. Later developments would see all animals able to communicate with each other along with having human-level intelligence and a functioning society. This was then followed with the inclusion of actual deities and Larisa making a Deal with the Devil to rule in Hell as a succubus when she dies.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • The Loud House started off as a whimsical but still relatively grounded series about what life is like for the only boy among 11 siblings, with the more fantastical elements and episodes usually turning out to be All Just a Dream or an Imagine Spot Lincoln or someone else is having. Over time, however, the more outlandish and silly elements slowly began to bleed into reality until things like time travel, ghosts, and magic became an everyday occurrence for Royal Woods instead of being confined to the kids' imagination.
  • The Scooby-Doo original series starts out pretty grounded in reality but in some of the sequel series they meet actual supernatural creatures instead of just a guy in a mask, and Scooby is able to communicate with humans on a sapient level instead of just being able to say a few words.
    • Mystery Incorporated takes this further as the series features a Myth Arc involving Mystery Inc's predecessors that culminates in the gang fighting an Eldritch Abomination who's of the same race as Scooby's ancestors, thus explaining how he can talk, who's death causes a Cosmic Retcon.
  • The Simpsons: The series started out largely as a working class family dealing with every day life issues. As the show went on, more and more fantastical plot elements began to creep in, eventually hitting what many consider its zenith with the episode Saddlesore Galactica which featured a plotline where Bart and Homer found out that all horse jockeys are actually elves that live under the earth in disguise. Since then, it has tried to avoid outright fantasy elements outside of Treehouse of Horror specials or non-canon one offs, but the plots can still verge on the unrealistic side at times.
  • The 2018 Polly Pocket series started out mostly grounded in reality, with some sci-fi elements like Polly's locket being powered by an in-universe element called pockite, as well as Griselle Grande's inventions. But following the first season they started introducing less realistic elements, from intelligent insects in the second season to mermaids in the fourth season. The Sparkle Cove Adventure special introduces other forms of pockite with different powers, some being more magical in nature.